Introduction Ntokozo Nhlabathi
We greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome to those who are here and who have joined via livestream or radio.
The 70 years celebration is approaching. One day does not seem enough to celebrate. Everyone is invited to celebrate with us on 11 December. All of us are VVVVIPs. If you are not here, you will lose out. It is better to have seen something yourself than to hear from someone else.
Recently the choir was invited to a school. The principal said he encountered Rev Stegen and KSB while he was at school. Rev Stegen often preached at his school with the choir. After school he attended a training college and Rev Stegen preached there as well. After he left school, he met with some brethren but because of his work situation he was unable to see them often. Years later he felt the call to preach the gospel. His calling was confirmed by Rev Stegen. He ended up at the school where he is now. Facing his life storms, he was reminded of where he had come from, and he came to the mission and received help. When we arrived he said, ‘I am so happy to see you. You still look so young even if you are close to retirement.’ He opened his heart and asked about people who had been here. When you receive this gospel, it affects your heart.
Albu van Eeden
Today’s topic is God’s hidden way. This place exists because of a man who could see God’s hidden way. The Bible says God is a God who hides Himself. Many people come to this place, sit in the same services as others, hear the same messages, see the same lives that others see and yet fail to see the hidden way of God.
To demonstrate God’s hidden way, I will use three men as examples from God’s word. The first person who saw the hidden way of God is a man who is becoming one of my greatest heroes in the OT. As I go through life, the more I experience, the more lessons, encouragement and guidance I get from his life. This man is Joseph. I will read several Scriptures today but as far as Joseph is concerned, I will not read anything.
It baffles me how things went wrong in the Joseph’s life. His brothers hated him, they sold him, he became a slave, he was sold to Potiphar, tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he resisted the temptation and was thrown into prison - he was absolutely humiliated. Imagine the humiliation of being sold by your own brothers as a slave. In his extreme humiliation, Joseph managed to see the hidden way of God. He was brutally abused, he was trampled upon, used as a doormat and deserted by everybody. Few people, if that happened to them, would manage to see God’s hidden way in those circumstances. Joseph experienced extreme suffering. He worked in a foreign country. As far as his family was concerned, he was dead. His father, the only one who loved Joseph, thought he was dead. His brothers sold him to traders, and as far as they were concerned, he was a slave. Under extreme humiliation and abuse, are you able to see God’s hidden way? Joseph was tempted by woman from the nobility of Egypt. She wanted him to sleep with her. In this temptation of lust and power, Joseph saw God’s hidden way. Young men, if a girl entices you and you are given attention from a very beautiful girl and you are not being abused, are you able to see God’s hidden way? When he ended in prison, he was still able to see God’s hidden way. He could have given up and said, ‘This is just too much for me.’ But God was there and God revealed a way in the midst of all the temptations.
The next person is Gideon.
14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” Judges 6:14,15
I doubt Gideon put on a show of humility, otherwise God would not have answered him by showing him the three signs which proved that God was with him. Gideon was the least in his family and his tribe was the least in Israel. He could have easily said, ‘No, I will not go for this. Me, the leader of the armies of Israel? No, hang on, this is impossible. How am I ever going to do this? I cannot. I will just embarrass myself. This will be one big mess. I have no skill in military training, I know nothing about war strategies. This is impossible for me.’ Gideon left the door open for God to show him His hidden way. He did not close the door to God. He did not run away and hide in his house. He left the door open so that God could show him His hidden way. God saw the faith in this man and He noticed Gideon left a small opening through which He could show him His hidden way. Gideon asked for signs. Blessed is the man who allows God to show him His hidden way even though it does not go according to his mind and logic. God allowed him to see miracle after miracle – the three signs – and slowly but surely Gideon’s eyes opened to see God’s hidden way in this matter.
Do you allow God to show you His hidden way when you are faced with an impossible situation which you cannot see will work out? It was an impossible assignment for him, but he left God an opportunity to reveal His hidden way. We know what happened after that. God granted him victory. He led the children of Israel into a great victory and they conquered. If God leads us and shows us His hidden way in difficulties, it may be that He will lead us to a place of victory. Then it is a completely different story when you see God’s hidden way after success.
The third person is another judge, Jephthah.
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him. Judges 11:1–3
This story breaks my heart. (I had this message on my heart for about a week then out of the blue someone told me that there was a portion in the Bible that had blessed them very much - Jephthah. We can make our plans but God in heaven oversees all we do, even at the mission and He shows us a hidden way. God forbid that we do not notice the hidden way of God.)
Jephthah was a mighty man of valour. His mother, however, was a prostitute. Jephthah was innocent. It was not his fault that he was the son of a prostitute. His brothers despised him and chased him out of the house. He was not allowed to inherit with them. How many people under those circumstances would be able to see God’s hidden way? God saw that this man that was treated like scum and He noted him. He was innocent but because his mother was a prostitute, he suffered.
Forgive me, women, you carry great guilt upon your shoulders. You are responsible for a lot of suffering in this world. You can bring curses upon your children and make them suffer because you love sin. Look around you, amongst the girls there are ‘slay queens’. Have you heard that word? Slay queens chase after the latest fashions. (If you have seen one, you have seen them all) They have the most expensive hairdos, their long nails are painted in many different colours, they are dressed in the latest fashions. The universities are full of them. Every second girl is a slay queen. They are attracted by the sins of the world and there is no integrity in their hearts to break with the world. They all run like blindfolded cattle in the direction of the latest fashion. They have the biggest mouths that criticise those following the world. One would imagine they are the most wonderful people with the greatest spiritual discernment. You know what male students say about such girls, ‘She is a slay queen, stay away from her. With all her glory, jewels, nails, hairdo, latest pants she is just an empty shell living for the world.’
Jephthah would have been an ideal candidate this type of lifestyle - an empty shell living for the world. The Bible says that he fled from his brothers and worthless men banded with him and they went out raiding. The stage was set for Jephthah to become a criminal. His mother was a prostitute, his father did not care for him and allowed his brothers to chase him away from home, and a band of worthless men associated with him. This was the ideal situation for a gangster. A gang followed him, he was a brave and intelligent man and they would become highway robbers. All this happened to him, and yet he must have seen the hidden way of God.
4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” Judges 11:4–6
Imagine what many people would have done had they been in Jephthah’s situation. ‘You know what, when you chased me out of the house and mocked me about my mother, I took an oath that I would never ever work or fight with you!’ That would have been a normal reaction. How many people have I met in counselling who have this attitude? ‘You can ask anything of me but don’t expect me to fight together or work with these people – they treated me like dung!’
7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” Judges 11:7
He shook them a little with this response, but there is no hidden grudge or hatred that would make him curse them. The next verse is a beautiful verse to me.
8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” Judges 11:8
Their response was not, ‘Ok, if that is the way you react when we ask you to be our leader, fine, go your way we can find someone else.’ No, they acted like mature people. They were mature enough to realise that they could not win without this man, so they humbled themselves.
9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” Judges 11:9
Through everything that happened with Jephthah, his family and his tribe, he must have noticed that there was a hidden way of God in this whole matter. Look how he begins to follow the hidden way of God as he prepares for the battle.
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. Judges 11:30–31
Jephthah erred here by making a rash decision instead of praying carefully. He had great regret later because the first person to meet him after the victory was his daughter. He made this promise because God gave him the victory over the Ammonites. Now he had to keep his promise. Friends, be very careful of promises made to God because God will hold you to the promises you have made.
When he returned from war and his daughter ran towards him, he said, ‘Why, why my daughter did you have to be the first one?” The Bible says that he kept his promise. Some say he sacrificed her. The Jews say he set her aside and she never married because she mourned her virginity. We do not read that his daughter objected or opposed her father. She was quiet and said, ‘Father if that is what you promised, it must happen.’
What happened to these three men after their victories? In many ways the temptations and challenges to see the hidden ways of God were greater than when they were humiliated.
Joseph was the second most powerful man in Egypt. I am sure the young girls would have fallen over their feet to marry him. When he was in that position of power, with the honour and the respect of the people, it did not blind him to the hidden way of God. He did not say, ‘God, you forgot me when I needed You the most. You allowed me to be sold as a slave and to suffer. Now I’m the second most powerful man in Egypt, why must I serve You?’ I do not know why Joseph never searched for his father. Somehow, he must have sensed that God did not want him to look for his father then. He was a man who could discern the hidden way of God. When his brothers begged for food, he did not say, ‘God has given them into my hands, I will beat them and hang them in the public square so that everybody will know that you don’t mess with Joseph. I am not just anybody!’ His brothers were helpless but his thought was not that God had given them back to Joseph so that he could give them some of their own medicine. There was nothing of that. On the contrary, they failed to recognise him. When he introduced himself to them, he broke down in tears and embraced them. How wonderful to see God’s hidden way and walk according to His way.
Finally, see what Gideon and Jephthah did when in power.
After the victory, the Ephraimites asked Jephthah, ‘Why did you not involve us in your victory?’ He was now in a position of power, and he had to find the hidden way of God. His response:
2 And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. 3 And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” 4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” Judges 12:2-4
Ephraim was another tribe of Israel. He ended up killing thousands of his own people.
Look at how Gideon handled it.
The same tribe came to Gideon with the same story. This seemed to be an issue of the tribe of Ephraim. You get people like Ephraim in the church. They quarrel with everybody. They do not see their mistakes. They did not realise that they had been called into battle, they were just concerned about their own honour. Why could they not share in the honour of Gideon and Jephthah? They are problems in the church – forever complaining and never satisfied. If you do not treat them in a specific way, they become a problem. They had no idea of what happened between God and Gideon, God and Jephthah, the mystery of how God had called them and promised them victory. They know nothing of it. They live before people and want the honour of the people. If something good happens and they cannot share in the honour, they are a problem and they complain.
How did Gideon treat them? Gideon had to find the hidden way of God while victorious.
Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this. Judges 8:1-3
They never knew how God spoke to Gideon until he only had 300 men. They were oblivious to that. They were just concerned about the fact that they were not getting the honour they thought they deserved. See how differently Gideon handled them, in comparison to Jephthah. (verses 2,3) See the wisdom with which he handled the situation.
Friend, can you see the hidden way of God? If you are confronted with your sins, either in a sermon, or in counselling, do you see it as an attack on your integrity? Do you defend yourself so as not to be guilty? Do you see the hidden way that leads to Golgotha? Do you see that God is not fighting to destroy and humiliate you? He is showing you a hidden way because at the cross there is forgiveness of sins. If you excuse yourself, you cannot experience forgiveness of sins. Blessed is the person who does not get upset when he is convicted of or confronted with his sins. The person who sees the hidden way to Golgotha can see that God means something good for me. He sent His Son to die for me. If I accept and confess my sins and acknowledge Him, there is forgiveness for me, and I do not have to fight and quarrel about it. Blessed is the person who can see the hidden way of God under all circumstances whether difficult or easy.
We come from a thousand different backgrounds but for each one of us God has a hidden way that you and I must find and follow. No matter what you come out of, no matter how many crimes you have committed, or how self-righteous you have become as a Pharisee, there is a way to Calvary, a cross, and a man hanging there bleeding, where you can receive forgiveness of your sins.
Conclusion Dietmar Joosten
Like those men were called by God, we are all called which is why we are here today. Ask the Lord, be before Him and He will show you the way you should go. We are all called not one is exempt. God wants us to fight the good fight of faith.
In Luke 4 the Lord Jesus was tempted like all of us. The enemy wanted to destroy Him, and the enemy wants to destroy the tribe of Israel, God’s children but Christ overcame. The Bible says that He went out in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Because of that Holy Spirit, people around Him were touched. Let us seek that in our lives – a hidden way. It is not me or you but God’s Spirit who works in us. Through Christ we may overcome the enemy of our souls and then we will have the power, by God’s grace and through His Spirit, to teach and reach many people.